Racial disparity in criminal sentencing

A fair and effective criminal justice system is important to most Rhode Island residents. The United States currently leads the world in incarceration, with more than two million people currently incarcerated. This is a 500 percent increase in four decades.

However, a study by the US Sentencing Commission shows an apparent disparity in the time served by African-American men as opposed to Caucasian American men, even though both committed the same crime. The commission noted that on average African-American males spent 19.1 percent more time in prison as opposed to their Caucasian American counterparts.

The disparity is not only seen in the amount of time African-American males spend in prison but the percentage of the African-American male population that is incarcerated. One in 10 African-American males who are over the age of 30 are either in prison or in jail every single day. This is six times as high as the incarceration rate for white males and 2.3 times as high as the incarceration rate for Hispanics.

In 2005, there was a change in the way judges sentenced an offender. Prior to the United States V Booker case, judges were forced to follow the guidelines provided by the sentencing commission in handing out sentencing. However, after this 2005 ruling, judges had more leeway and were allowed to use the facts in the case as well as their own judgment in determining sentencing.

The outcome a defendant has in court is often connected to the criminal defense attorney they work with. Even if an individual is detained on suspicion of committing a crime that they are innocent of, they still benefit from the help of a criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense attorneys are not solely for guilty individuals, nor do they solely help innocent individuals. In addition to defending their client in court, these attorneys may help wrongfully accused individuals who are already incarcerated or help individuals who have been released regain some of the rights they lost as a result of their incarceration.

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Nicholas J. Hemond Attorney at Law
1 Turks Head Place, 12th Floor
Providence, RI 02903

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